The most noteworthy thing about John Vandersliceâ€™s new album is this: Romanian Names it's the best record heâ€™s made to date. The 12 songs represent a career-defining moment, a pitch-perfect collection written and recorded with the utmost care and attention.
Vanderslice is certainly not the first artist to make such a leap several albums into a career â€“ think Guided by Voices on Bee Thousand, Spoonâ€™s Kill the Moonlight or Of Montrealâ€™s Sunlandic Twins. Vanderslice's newest, his first for Dead Oceans, makes that step and separates itself from an already top-notch body of work.
The process of writing Romanian Names differed from that of prior Vanderslice albums. This time, he moved outside the normal (and by now maybe too comfortable) confines of his famed San Francisco recording studio, Tiny Telephone. He constructed a simple basement studio in his home and wrote and recorded the elemental demos for these songs alone with simply a guitar or piano to accompany his voice. The emphasis was placed on melody and structure, putting thoughts of instrumentation and studio wizardry on hold until there was a complete and stable foundation to build upon. The songs were given time to breathe, to be re-worked and reorganized, and sometimes enough time to be thrown out entirely. Benefiting from this organic and evolutionary process, Romanian Names coheres beautifully.
The album is subtle and lush, with a lyrical approach less concerned with narrative and cohesion than previous JV records, leading to a new tone that feels self-assured, natural, and unafraid. The results come in the way of killer sing-along choruses, memorable and punchy hooks, and knock-out atmospherics.